N is for Names

Happy Monday, everyone!  This post is part of the A-Z challenge. Please take time to visit the other blogs that are participating.

Names.  Everyone has one.  Novelists sometimes have many.  In fact, being a novelist is one of the only professions where it’s perfectly okay to have multiple personalities, voices and imaginary  playmates (including creatures, shapeshifters, vampires, and werewolves, among others) running around in our heads constantly.  And of course, each one of those characters has a name, but what are they, and how do novelists come up with those names you love?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but some names just come to me when I write, like David, Charlotte, Trogsdill (“Trog”), Einar, and Eric from my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.  I liked the ring that each name had and didn’t really realize what the significance of their first names were until I started doing some research into a last name for Trog.  I was really amazed at how their names spoke volumes of their characterizations:

David Alwyn Heiland:  beloved/noble friend/savior

Charlotte Breanna Stine:  free man/noble/anointed

Trogsdill Domnall:     to walk heavily/mighty; great chief

Eric Finian Hamden:  forever, ruler/handsome/praised

Einar:  warrior; battle leader

Aside from having random names pop into my head, how else do I come up with character names?  I look at several things.

Era:  current, trendy names may not work very well in the era your story takes place.  “Electra” probably wouldn’t work in a story set in the early 1700s.

Place:  Where does your story take place?  “Bobby Jean” may stand out like a sore thumb in wealthy societies.

Reserved or Contemporary?:  Is your character conservative?  Maybe a name like “Arthur” would be more appropriate than a more contemporary counterpart like “Sonny”.

I’ve also learned to try and avoid famous names, and not make the pronunciations too difficult.  Readers can’t relate to names they can’t pronounce.  And, unless you’re writing a comedy or trying to make a specific point, try to avoid same sounding names, like Harry Larry or Kendell Wyndel.

Where else do I look to find cool, interesting names?  The phone book, the Bible, baby books.  There are tons of “name” sites on the internet.  I also pay attention to those movie credits.  You’d be surprised by the gems you find there.

I found that keeping a running list of names at all times helps a lot.  Whenever I hear a cool name or come up with one, I jot it down so I don’t forget it.  

Whatever I do, I try to make my character’s name identifiable and memorable.  I’ve been told it helps to make a story stand out from the others.  I hope I’ve succeeded.

What are some of your favorite character names?

C is for Characters

This is a continuation of the A-Z blog challenge.  Click here to see the list of all 1935 participants!

Characters.  They’re everywhere.  At the grocery store.  In the park.  At school.  You even have them as your friends…and family.  No one is off-limits, including you, especially to an author.

Writers are always looking for new fodder for their next project.  One common question people ask writers is, “Where do you find inspiration for your characters?”  For me, I’d have to answer, “From you, and the person sitting next to you.  The grocery clerk and the librarian.  The elephant trainer, the executive.”  It’s true.  We are all unique, interesting individuals.  No two of us are exactly the same, which makes each of us the perfect ‘playground’ for authors.

I love creating characters.  I have a notebook of character traits I’ve gathered from watching people and listening to them.  I have conversations written down with an estimation of the age of the person(s) speaking so I can fit the right dialogue with the right character.  I love having an idea for a character, thumbing through my notes picking this trait and that trait, then putting them all together to make a unique person.  Take Charlotte Stine, my female secondary character in my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

Charlotte was born on April Fools Day but there’s nothing April Foolish about her.  She has waist-length dark brown hair, a turned up nose and a round face.  She has a scar across the back of her ankle where she caught her foot in the spokes of her bicycle when she was six.  It took 65 stitches to put her back together.  Her parents didn’t think she’d ever be able to participate in sports.  Charlotte proved them wrong.

Currently, she’s 16, almost 17, and excels in gymnastics and dance.  Her favorite subject is biology and she hates math.  She plays the oboe, clarinet and piano and prefers classical music over top 40 or rap.

She has no problem speaking her mind to others and is always on David’s (the MC) back to stand up for himself and assert his opinions.  She is respectful of her parents and tends to not create waves with them, especially her dad.  He’s a retired Air Force captain with top-secret clearance at the nearby Air Force base.

She is squeamish at the sight of blood and passes out.  Her favorite meal is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Her least favorite:  shrimp.  She is allergic to lemons and breaks out in hives if she encounters even the peels.  She plays with her hair when nervous and is terrified of cockroaches, beetles (except ladybugs) and any other large, crunchy insect.  She despises war.  Her brother, Daniel, died fighting in a war she felt was unnecessary and senseless.  She is way too trusting and impulsive and tends to blame others for allowing her to act irresponsibly.  Her best friend in the world is David (the MC).  She doesn’t have a lot of friends at school because she can’t stand the hypocrisy and two-facedness of girls her age.

She’s adventurous and energetic, pioneering and courageous, enthusiastic and confident, dynamic and quick-witted.  On the other end, she can be selfish and quick-tempered, impulsive and impatient, foolhardy and a daredevil.  Her nature is to push or be pushed. There is no middle ground.  She likes challenges that stir people into action, and gets irritated when others don’t see her clear vision.  Even with her aggressiveness, she is still very much a lamb.  She would much prefer attaining her goals by gently giving in without resistance to the demands of a given situation, rather than by getting entangled in something larger and more powerful than herself.  This takes patience, which is something Charlotte doesn’t have.  Too bad she has to learn it at the mercy of a dragon.

Who is your favorite character and why?